Androsace pyrenaica

Only a few comments today, as I’m very busy at a conference for the rest of the week. Taken at the Alpine Garden Club of BC‘s annual show last Sunday. The plant was grown by Joe Keller.

The Alpine Garden Club’s Spring Sale takes place at the end of the month. My advice? Well, if the plants at the show were any indication of what’s available, do not hesitate. Go to the sale for some extraordinary plants.

Continue reading “Androsace pyrenaica”

Akebia quinata ‘Shirobana’

The male flowers of the “chocolate vine”. I suppose that since this particular cultivar is bleached of most of its colour, one could call it the white chocolate vine…

Akebia flowers are another macro challenge, and this is yet another photograph I’ve been attempting for three years in a row. The plants are located along the fence at the upper end of the Alpine Garden, which is fairly exposed to both breeze and sun.

The black and white version of this photo and an image of the fruit for this plant are available here: Akebia quinata ‘Shirobana’.

Continue reading “Akebia quinata ‘Shirobana’”

Salix acutifolia ‘Blue Streak’

Keeping with the theme of subtle flowers, here’s a photo of a catkin from a male willow in the garden. Thanks to Andy Hill, one of UBC Botanical Garden’s horticulturists, for pointing out that I needed to take a photo of these catkins.

Willows are often difficult to identify, for a number of reasons: individual plants can be either male or female, the morphological features of the plants can vary with the environment it is growing in (phenotypic variation), the genetics of the plant or the growing stage, and species readily hybridize.

The label for this particular willow has been lost. We’ll now have to reidentify the plant. If we could be certain that this species is from British Columbia, a reidentification would be difficult, but not impossible. The diversity of willow species in British Columbia is high – 55 to 60 species in British Columbia, or 15% of the world’s different species (source: Classification of Salix in the New World).

However, at a botanical garden, our pool of potential suspects starts at the very beginning – with all of the species in the world. We can often narrow the field considerably by cross-referencing the plant’s location in the garden against our database, but if this doesn’t work for whatever reason, we’ve a challenge on our hands.

More interested in willow flowers than in willow taxonomy? Check out this article on the biology of willow flowers from NatureNorth in Manitoba.

You can view my black and white version of this photo on the garden’s discussion forums.

Update (May 12, 2005 11:42 PM PST): During the course of our annual inventory week, we were able to determine the name of this plant, so I’ve changed the name of the plant from Salix sp.

Continue reading “Salix acutifolia ‘Blue Streak’”

Decaisnea insignis

This is the kind of photo that keeps me taking pictures. A sharp eye will note that the image is just a touch out-of-focus. It’s acceptable for the web, but not useful for a print, as it is clearly out-of-focus at its original size (roughly 15x the area of this one). I’m going to have to try again next year.

Usually, if there’s no compelling reason to keep an out-of-focus photograph, I toss it. I had to make an exception for this one, because I think it is one of those uncommon photos that keeps the eye constantly in motion; my eye is initially drawn to the buds, then to the left and up following the flow of the leaflets; then back to the buds, and the cycle begins anew.

A few more Decaisnea insignis photographs can be seen on the forums, as well as a discussion about the name. Here is the text from the interpretative sign that accompanies it:

Decaisnea insignis, popularly known as “dead man’s fingers” is a Chinese botanical oddity known for its tropical-looking, pinnately compound leaves and curious blue fruit.”

Decaisnea is the only shrubby genus in Lardizabalaceae, a family of otherwise strictly woody climbers (lianas) from Asia and South America. Plants are monoecious (separate male and female flowers), exhibiting pistillate flowers at the base of drooping racemes of staminate flowers. In this garden, bunches of finger-sized, fleshy follicles regularly develop. These gradually turn blue, becoming crooked and distended when ripe (hence the common name). They eventually split open to expose watermelon-like seeds embedded in a viscous, edible pulp.”

Continue reading “Decaisnea insignis”

John Davidson

This is a digitized scan of a hand-painted lantern slide, one of 1600 slides held by UBC Botanical Garden. All of the slides were once in the possession of the man in the photograph, “Botany John” Davidson.

If you’ve never seen a lantern slide, apparently they are not (and never were) that common. The North American Lantern Slide Survey results suggest that a collection of 1600 lantern slides is near the median.

On John Davidson: Among his many firsts, John Davidson was the first director of UBC Botanical Garden, the first provincial botanist of British Columbia and the first appointment to the newly-formed University of British Columbia. This slide is likely taken in the first decade of the 1900s, at his home in Scotland.

Many of his lantern slides feature plants or landscapes, and from time to time I’ll feature one as photo of the day. The assembled collection is amazing, considering that many of the slides were originally taken in black-and-white and then hand-painted. We’ve applied for funding from the Virtual Museum of Canada to digitize the entire collection, along with other historical documents and objects, to create a virtual exhibit dedicated to John Davidson. To see a similar exhibition with lantern slides, check out An Illustrated History of Missouri Botanical Garden (choose “Magic Lantern Slide” from the Source drop-down menu).

As a final note, I’d like to point out that hand-painting of black-and-white lantern slides allowed the image-maker to highlight special items of interest; in this instance, John Davidson coloured the green plants, the handle of the rake, and (what always brings a smile to my face when I see this image) the blue and pink bloomers on the clothesline.

Continue reading “John Davidson”